I am a balloon
limitless, frightening, untameable sky
wild with possibility and peril.
Firm, broken, fertile earth
the comfort of gravity and a soft place to land.
Drifting in the tension of elements heaving ever upwards
away from safety
to unknown (adventure?)
and the gentle, forceful, weight of pure physics
keeping home in sight.
This week I have been reminded to practice one of my lifelines*:
“Be kind to yourself.”
It’s so easy to let everything build up, take up space, cause shortness of breath and scattered, unfocussed thoughts. Grounding myself is a discipline, and it’s often much easier just to throw off the ballast and let that hot air take control of where I’m headed, get taken up quickly with a rush of anti-gravity and those heavy, leaden butterflies with their paradoxical, languid flutter in the pit of my stomach.
It’s easy to let go. It takes strength to hold on, stay the course, keep perspective.
Being kind to myself is like keeping that ballast tied firmly to my hot air balloon. It seems counter-intuitive and selfish, when my world revolves so much around being kind to others. But it might not be what you think. It’s not always spending a day in my pyjamas and eating ice-cream (though sometimes, appropriate!)
Being kind to myself is doing a load of dishes before it gets too much.
Being kind to myself is getting dressed, washing my face and attempting to feel human.
Being kind to myself is freeing myself from expectation, and taking one thing at a time.
Then it is allowing time to take things in, slow things down, focus, meditate, breathe…
Being kind to myself is hearing my son’s innocently wise words as he wipes a tired tear from my cheek, “It’s ok… You will always be my Mummy.”
Being kind to myself is stopping to follow my daughter’s bright blue eyes, as they peer with excitement out the window at “Look Mummy, three birdies!”
Being kind to myself is holding my baby close as she drifts to sleep, running my finger delicately along the sweet concave arc of her nose and up over the gentle peach fuzz on her forehead, to her softly, slowly growing hair. Watching her eyelids flutter gently closed and hearing her contented breathing, deeply…
Being kind to myself is entering in to that beautiful, messy, earthiness of life with all senses switched on, especially when my own tendencies are to voluntarily submit to a general anaesthetic, to prefer feeling nothing over feeling any unpleasantness at all.
It is resisting the temptation to rush, ignore, suppress, escape.
It is folding washing, brewing tea, sneaking chocolate, picking up, wiping down.
It is cuddles, tickles, songs, food, friends.
It is feeling the sun, rain and wind.
Most of all, being kind to myself is about doing, noticing, being… feeling that breath
And choosing to find peace in the tension between two opposing forces of science, between the earth and the sky, aware that it is the fine management of this ballast that keeps me from plummeting below, or drifting too high and far from home.
How do you recognise when you need to be kind to yourself? What do you do?
*My ‘lifelines’ are a small (but growing) list of reminders to myself, inspired by Gretchen Rubin’s Personal Commandments and The Happiness Project. I have written about another one of my Lifelines here, and I’m sure there will be more to come.